By Phil Crossman
Given the same wildly divergent opinions that exist elsewhere, and are unmistakably present here as well, I’m impressed at how well we on the island mostly get along. Many of the people with whom I once shared childhoods and then adolescence and then the rest of our lives, are still here with me 60 or 70 years later, but we are so different, think about things so differently.
Where and at what point did we each wander off along such different political and social tangents? Not surprisingly, those differences are most distinctly apparent politically. I have to give these friends the credit and respect they deserve. I can’t treat them otherwise simply because they disagree with me.
But that’s not easy. I have to keep reminding myself that the way to deal with their support for this president, for example, with whom I so continually disagree, is to listen and to acknowledge and to then seriously consider that their support for him is just as valid as my contrasting sentiments—because it is.
I find I am continually issuing reminders to myself that I cannot let our differences get in the way of friendly co-habitation. But then I just as frequently remind myself that there is no need to get too carried away with that caution because there is no evidence and there has been none, that those differences are troubling any of them.
They would each drop everything to come to my assistance if I needed it, wouldn’t they? And would I not do the same for them? It’s happened over and over through the decades.
So, what’s my problem? Why am I even a little frustrated by my inability to carry the day and persuade everyone that I am right about everything? If we all had the same opinion about everything there’d be no need for such a conciliatory arrangement as this democracy.
OK, so now I have to ask myself if I would not prefer the peace and quiet (read: boredom) of finding ourselves all on the same page, to the present circumstances and the truth is, I would not, even enduring the daily angst that comes with trying to hold my head up during times when I feel a tangible chagrin about my country.
Now, what set this off was a recent experience. Just after the COVID fiasco hit the ground, I had a heated exchange on social media about the administration’s handling of the crisis. I thought it was pathetic. My adversary thought I and the media were being unfair.
A few days later I found myself at the gas station, having filled up before discovering I had no money (an old-fashioned gas station with a real live person and no credit card processing). The fellow with whom I’d argued was in line behind me, also waiting to fuel up, and overheard me offering excuses to the station attendant and suggesting I would go get some money and come right back.
He stepped out of his truck and came up to offer to pay for my gas, saying I could repay him when it was convenient or when we saw one another again. As it happens, my coming back to pay was perfectly alright with the attendant and my friend’s help was not needed, but it’s a fine measure of what it’s like to fiercely disagree in this unique environment, as opposed to what I might have experienced nearly anywhere else (except another of these islands).
I do expect to continue disagreeing and arguing, but also look forward to it.
Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven where he serves as selectman.